Typographical errors — a/k/a typos — are annoying little gremlins that like to sneak into what we thought was final, polished copy. Typos are everywhere. They’re fodder for comical memes (e.g., on a store sign that reads “Shoplifters will be prostituted” or a tattoo whose owner lives by the creed “Regert nothing”). They’re a newspaper editor’s nightmare (nothing like a glaring typo in a banner headline, immortalized in newsprint), trumped only by the horror of the road worker who painted “SCOOL” in giant letters in the street to denote a school zone.
As wordsmiths, we’re all guilty of making typos. We wince when we see them. But let’s not dismiss them as “Oh, it’s just a typo.” Those of us who came up in the print world learned to scrub down our copy with steel wool to make darn sure typos didn’t tarnish our work. Because once it’s in print, there’s no taking it back.
Typos in web copy can be fixed, but that’s no reason to tolerate sloppy copy. Too many typos left uncorrected can quietly chip away at your credibility. They can make you look unprofessional and cost you business. No one is prefect. (oops.) But these tips can help you avoid the embarrassment and cost of letting typos slip through the cracks.
Run the spell checker. In the haste to make deadlines, we’ve all forgotten to run the spell checker one more time. Just do it. Typos can be introduced in those last, frantic hours and minutes of making final revisions. Better to find and fix them upfront than discover typos live on your website, blog or social media pages.
Proofread before and after a project goes live. After you run the spell check, don’t publish your web copy just yet! Take a breather, make a cup of coffee or tea, then come back and re-read your copy with fresh eyes. This is not the stage to start tweaking copy, but to proofread for gross errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation. Spell checkers don’t catch everything. That’s where our human editorial brains come in handy.
Once your copy goes live, proofread it again! Typos can be introduced during the web development stages. So it’s important to not only celebrate your finished copy but read it closely in its published format. I often find typos at this stage that I missed when the copy was in Microsoft Word or Google Docs. There’s something about seeing the copy in its formatted context that helps make typos jump out from their hiding places.
NOTE: If you can, post your web copy on a staging server for proofreading and correcting before you push it live to the world. It’s worth building in this extra step in production to avoid the hassle of going back into copy to make corrections after the fact. This is also true when creating PDF documents for white papers, case studies and other marketing collateral. It’s much more expensive and time consuming to pull down and fix a PDF after you’ve posted it live.
Watch the ends of lines. The eye fills in what it expects to read. That’s why typos are so sneaky. Carefully read the end of one line and the beginning of the next, to make sure you haven’t left out or duplicated a word.
Join the typo patrol! Whenever I spot a typo in my colleagues’ or clients’ work, I’m quick to gently point it out. This may seem persnickety. But most people appreciate having typos pointed out by a friendly editorial comrade, rather than by a customer or business associate. Give them a chance to correct mistakes they didn’t know they made. (I’m still surprised at how many typos appear in LinkedIn profiles.)
Everyone is moving fast. Taking a bit of extra time to proofread your copy can save time, money and aggravation in the long run. Maybe we can help you proofread your projects? Wordsmithie’s eagle-eyed editors will leave no typo unturned! Tweet us (or a good ol’ fashioned email will do!) if you’re interested in working together.